For Big 12 basketball, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger

In addition to maintaining the status quo, protecting their own interests and preventing residents of Berkeley and Lubbock from ever having to coexist, the shadowy figures who saved the Big 12 deserve credit for one other significant accomplishment.

They also staved off the demise of one heck of a basketball conference.

Once Nebraska and Colorado leave for the Big Ten and Pac-10 in the next two years, a conference that may already be the nation's best next season will be streamlined and almost dead weight-free. Seven of the 10 remaining programs have been to the Sweet 16 in the past four years and an eighth, Oklahoma State, has qualified for the NCAA tournament six out of the past nine seasons.

It's amazing to think that the Big 12 may be more formidable in basketball than football right now given its Big Eight and Southwest Conference roots, but try arguing otherwise these days.

In football, the Big 12 will be closer to Texas, Oklahoma and the eight dwarfs once Nebraska leaves unless Texas A&M returns to its former prominence or Texas Tech proves it can sustain its success without Mike Leach. In hoops, the conference will be as healthy as it has ever been next season with five potential preseason top 25 teams.

Kansas is as formidable as ever, Missouri is on an upswing and Texas continues to recruit nationally under Rick Barnes. Furthermore top-notch coaches at Kansas State, Baylor and Texas A&M have those three historically underwhelming programs performing as well as they ever have in the past.

Only Iowa State and Oklahoma have programs that finished this past season majorly trending downward, and the Cyclones hired a promising new coach and the Sooners are merely 14 months removed from an Elite Eight appearance.

If traditional basketball doormats like Texas A&M, Baylor and Kansas State can maintain their success in the long term, the Big 12 could be poised to remain really strong in the coming years.

If not, well, at least its future is secure. That's more than we could say 48 hours ago.

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